May 19, 2020

Blog Labels and Dates for Navigation

As you've realized by now, a blog is a website, a specialized kind of website where the content is organized in date-based order by default. Having the content in date-based order is great for all kinds of purposes, but sometimes you might want to organize and view the content in different ways. In this post, I'll talk about using labels for blog navigation and also how to hack the date/time stamp for more navigational control.

Blog Labels

I mentioned earlier about how useful labels can be (or, in WordPress, categories and tags) for blog navigation, which is why I recommend that you put at least one label on a blog post. You can always add labels later if you want, either by editing the post, and you can also do some label filtering and editing for multiple posts in the blog dashboard.

By default, Blogger displays labels down at the bottom of each post as links; when you click on the label, you will see a new view of the blog content: it is still in date-based order, newest to oldest, but the only posts are the ones with that label. So, for example, you can browse my Twitter Highlights at this blog:

By using labels, you make it easier for readers at your blog to explore and find related content. In a traditional website you have to build that navigational experience manually, but in a blog, that navigation structure emerges automatically based on the labels you are using.

You can also use sidebar widgets to help readers navigate your blog using the labels. You can even have a label that is used just for one post only; that is what my students do with their Introduction posts, so that there is an instant link to the Introduction post from any page of their blog, using the label navigation widget. For example, here's a screenshot from a student blog (this student chose to have Spanish be the default template language for her blog, which I thought was cool; that's why it says "etiquetas" instead of "labels"):

One of the advantages of a Blogger blog over the standard WordPress blog, in fact, is that you can have multiple label navigation widgets in the sidebar if you want to give your readers a wide variety of ways to navigate the blog. I'll have more to say about configuring label navigation widgets later.

In my classes, students use two kinds of labels for their work: a category type of label (Reading, Story, etc.) and a week label (Week 1, Week 2, and so on). So, for most assignments, each post has two labels: one for the type of assignment, and one for the week. That allows students to browse and review their own work in two different ways. With just one click, they can see all their reading notes, all their stories, etc. displayed on a single webpage, OR they can click and see all their work for a given week displayed on a single webpage. That is a powerful tool for self-assessment and reflection! Students don't have to do anything special to make that happen except to remember to add labels to each post, which is why I prompt them to do that each time with the assignment declaration checklist (more about declarations and checklists later).

Hacking Date-Time for Navigation

So, you can use labels to organized the posts at your blog, and that is often all the kind of organization you need to provide. If you are using your blog for content development, though, you might need to organize the content so that the display is not date-based.

For example, I built the UnTextbook for my Myth-Folklore class in the form of a blog. There are 100 different reading units, and each reading unit has around 20-30 posts. And yes, there really are around 3000 posts at the blog. (Trust me: you don't want to put 3000 pages of content inside an LMS; use a blog instead!)

The way I organized the reading units is by hacking the date/time stamp. So, for example, here is the Cherokee Reading Unit. All the posts in that unit have a label, and then the posts are organized by date/time with the overview post at the top, followed by the first story, second story, third story and so on. The dates/times on those posts are not the date/time at which I added the content at the blog. Instead, I created those dates/times in a spreadsheet and pasted them into the blog post in order to organize the content in the right order.

I've suppressed the date/time display from the posts (more about how to do that later). The date/time are not important for the readers at this blog; instead, the date/time information is just something I use as the blog author to control the way the content is displayed for the blog's readers.

Simple Hack: Top Post on Homepage

One simple date/time hack you can use is just to change the year on a post to THE FUTURE so that it will show up as the first post at your blog, staying above the new content you are adding.

To do that in Blogger, just publish the post with the default date. Then, go back in and edit the post to change the year to be one year in the future, and publish the post again. Blogger will not remove the post from the display; it will stay there, and because the future is "newer" than any current date, it will stay up at the top of your homepage display.

Note: you can also schedule future posts to be published at a future date/time in your blog! I do that every day with my daily announcements, writing them up in advance and scheduling them to publish on the correct day.

This hack depends on publishing the blog post first, and THEN changing the date to the future, as you can see with the post currently on the homepage of this blog, dated 2021:

At this blog, I don't usually do that, since this blog usually functions like a regular blog, with newest content at the top of the homepage, so I have not suppressed the date display. When this summer blog-fest is over, I'll change the date on that post back to 2020, and it will revert into the usual date-based display order.

So, that's the last post I'll be writing about posts and content... starting with the next post, I'll shift over to design options, starting with Blog Themes and Layout.